An unpredictable job market motivated Viet Nguyen, Milpitas High Class of 2000 to start his own business. He graduated with a degree in marketing from San Jose State University in 2006. He started working at a tech firm, then a solar company selling panels, and came up with the idea for a food truck when his contractor position with a 4G wireless satellite company ended on June 1. Nguyen worked to make his food truck dream become a reality and two months after his job ended held the grand opening for Bigg Shrimp'n on August 1.
Milpitas Patch: We've had coming to Milpitas selling , Korean BBQ tacos, , and . How did you come up with the shrimp idea?
Viet Nguyen: I just basically went back to the Vietnamese roots. There's a lot of shrimp farmers so that's just kind of in our blood. We eat a lot of shrimp. Every single dish you can find shrimp in there of some type. So I felt there was a need for shrimp on the market and I wanted to be unique. That's just the way I am. I want to stand out from the crowd rather than blending in.
Milpitas Patch: Do you consider yourself a foodie? And how do you craft your recipes?
Viet Nguyen: Always. It's all from our taste, from our friends. When we BBQ, we like to eat well…and we'll twist it to make it our own.
I've been eating shrimp tacos for a lot time. There's no shrimp banh mi out there. [Bánh mì is a Vietnamese baguette/sandwich with pickled daikon, carrots, cucumbers, cilantro.] So I thought that was something new and a lot of people would accept. And we have a different sauce for every single dish we have.
Kho [pronounced kaw] is basically a marinated fish sauce. In Vietnamese cuisine they add it to beef, shrimp, pork, anything. So on our special nights, we do make that one.
Milpitas Patch: You have a team of Milpitas High grads helping you get the business off the ground?
Viet Nguyen: My sister is from Class of '99. James Nguyen is pretty much my right hand man. He graduated in 2000 with me. My girlfriend Jennifer Nguyen works at Apple but she helps us as much as she can. She's Class of 2003. There's another brother of James, Paul Nguyen, who is Class of 2002.
I was working 20 hour days and everyone was seeing how much I wanted this. Slowly everyone jumped on board. I have a pretty big team around me at this point. I definitely couldn't do this without all my friends and family.
Milpitas Patch: What have you had to learn quickly as part of being an entrepreneur in the food truck industry?
Viet Nguyen: Food comes pretty natural to me and the car is pretty natural for me, I'm a really hands on guy. It's just the Facebook and Twitter, I'm actually personally not on Facebook. That's still something I still have to continue to learn. But I do believe in the power of Facebook and Twitter because we had a soft opening. We posted it maybe an hour and a half before and we served about 60 to 70 people the first day. And we sold out.
We trying to get a little food truck market going on in Milpitas here. Hopefully in the short future, we'll get that down. But just the whole proposal process with city hall…just the [process for getting a] hearing [with the planning commission] alone will probably take a month to six weeks.
Milpitas Patch: Is being an entrepreneur a new path for you? Or a side of you that always existed that you're discovering?
Viet Nguyen: I'm always on my toes. I'm always trying to reinvent myself and do something new.